Koch-Connected Dark Money Funds Much More Than Climate Denial
So who funds Genetic Literacy Project and Entine?
According to their website, the bulk of funding comes from two foundations—Searle and Templeton—identified in the Drexel study as leading funders of climate-science denial. The site also lists funding from the Winkler Family Foundation and "pass through support for University of California-Davis Biotech Literacy Bootcamp" from the Academics Review Charitable Association.
Previous funding sources also include climate science denial supporters and undisclosed pass-through funding.
The Genetic Literacy Project and Entine previously operated under the umbrella of Statistical Assessment Services (STATS), a group located at George Mason University, where Entine was a fellow at the Center for Health and Risk Communication from 2011-2014.
STATS was funded largely by the Scaife Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust between 2005 and 2014, according to a Greenpeace investigation of STATS funding.
Kimberly Dennis, the president and CEO of Searle Freedom Trust, is also chairman of the board of Donors Trust, the notorious Koch-connected dark money fund whose donors cannot be traced. Under Dennis' leadership, Searle and Donors Trust sent a collective $290,000 to STATS in 2010, Greenpeace reported.
In 2012 and 2013, STATS received loans from its sister organization, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which received donations during those years from the George Mason University Foundation, which does not disclose funding sources.
Entine has at times tried to distance himself and GLP from these groups; however, tax records show Entine was paid $173,100 by the Center for Media and Public Affairs for the year ending June 30, 2015.
By 2014, emails show, Entine was trying to find a new home for Genetic Literacy Project, and wanted to establish a "more formal relationship" with the University of California, Davis, World Food Center. He became a Senior Fellow at the school's Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy and now identifies as a former fellow. GLP is now under the umbrella of a group called the Science Literacy Project.
Entine said he would not respond to questions for this story.
Trevor Butterworth—Sense About Science USA / STATS
Trevor Butterworth has been a reliable industry messenger for many years, defending the safety of various risky products important to the chemical and junk food industries, such as phthalates, BPA, vinyl plastic, corn syrup, sugary sodas and artificial sweeteners. He is a former contributor at Newsweek and has written book reviews for the Wall Street Journal.
From 2003 to 2014, Butterworth was an editor at STATS, funded largely by Scaife Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust. In 2014, he became the founding director of Sense About Science USA and folded STATS into that group.
A recent exposé by Liza Gross in The Intercept described Sense About Science, its director Tracey Brown, Butterworth, STATS and the founders of those groups as "self-appointed guardians of sound science" who "tip the scales toward industry."
Sense About Science "purports to help the misinformed public sift through alarming claims about health and the environment" but "has a disturbing history of promoting experts who turn out to have ties to regulated industries," Gross wrote.
"When journalists rightly ask who sponsors research into the risks of, say, asbestos, or synthetic chemicals, they'd be well advised to question the evidence Sense About Science presents in these debates as well."
Sense About Science USA posted this response to the piece, and Butterworth said via email he was "disappointed with the Intercept's misleading article, which lumped people and organizations with no connection to Sense About Science USA together." He said his group takes no corporate funding and is legally independent from the UK Sense About Science.
He also said, "I have never been involved in industry messaging campaigns -- in any capacity, paid or not."
Some journalists have concluded otherwise. Reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Atlantic and Consumer Reports portrayed Butterworth as a key player in the chemical industry's aggressive PR efforts to defend the chemical BPA.
In 2009, journalists Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel described Butterworth as BPA's "most impassioned" defender, and an example of "chemical industry public relations writers" who do not disclose their affiliations.
STATS, they wrote, "claims to be an independent media watchdog" but "is funded by public policy organizations that promote deregulation." Its sister organization, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, "has a history of working for corporations trying to deflect concerns about the safety of their products." Butterworth said his reporting on BPA reflected the evidence at the time from authoritative sources, and STATS posted responses here and here to the critical reporting.
A more recent example of how Butterworth's writings played a key role in corporate lobby efforts to discredit troublesome science can be seen in his work on the controversial artificial sweetener sucralose.
In 2012, Butterworth wrote a Forbes article criticizing a study that raised concerns about the cancer risk of sucralose. He described the researchers, Dr. Morando Soffritti and the Ramazzini Institute, as "something of a joke."
In 2016, a food industry front group featured Butterworth's 2012 article and "something of a joke" critique in a press release attacking a new Soffritti "panic study" that raised concerns about sucralose. Reporters at The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and Deseret News picked up Butterworth's quotes discrediting the researchers, and identified him only as a reporter from Forbes.
Similarly, in 2011, Butterworth was a featured expert at the International Sweeteners Association Conference, and claimed in their press release there is "no evidence of a risk to health" from sucralose. He was identified as a "journalist who regularly contributes to the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal."
Emails obtained by USRTK show that Coca Cola VP Rhona Applebaum described Butterworth to the leaders of the Global Energy Balance Network – a Coca-Cola front group working to spin the science on obesity – as "our friend" and a journalist who was "ready and able" to work with them. Butterworth said he never worked with that group.
Butterworth is now affiliated with Cornell University as a visiting fellow at the Cornell Alliance for Science, a group launched in 2014 with a Gates Foundation grant to promote GMOs. The Gates-funded group now partners with Sense About Science USA on a workshop to teach young scientists to "Stand Up for Science."
Sense About Science USA also runs public engagement workshops for scientists at such venues as the University of Washington, University of Pittsburg, Carnegie Melon, Rockefeller University, Caltech and University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Henry I. Miller—Hoover Institution
Henry I. Miller, MD, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is one of the most prolific defenders of genetically engineered foods and fiercest opponents of labeling them. He has penned numerous attacks on the organic industry, including "The Colossal Hoax of Organic Agriculture" (Forbes), "Organic Farming is Not Sustainable" (Wall Street Journal) and "The Dirty Truth About Organic Produce" (Newsweek).
Miller has also written in defense of bee-harming pesticides, plastic chemicals and radiation from nuclear power plants, and has repeatedly argued for the reintroduction of DDT. He did not respond to requests to comment for this story.
Unlike Butterworth and Entine, Miller has a science background and government credentials; he is a medical doctor and was the founding director of the FDA's office of biotechnology.
Like Butterworth and Entine, Miller's funding comes from groups that finance climate science denial – the Hoover Institute's top funder is the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the group has also taken money from the Searle Freedom Trust, Exxon Mobile, American Chemistry Council, Charles Koch Foundation and Donors Trust.
Like the founders of STATS and Sense About Science, Miller also has ties to the tobacco industry PR campaigns. In a 1994 PR strategy memo for the tobacco company Phillip Morris, Miller was referred to as "a key supporter" of the global campaign to fight tobacco regulations. In 2012, Miller wrote that nicotine "is not particularly bad for you in the amounts delivered by cigarettes or smokeless products."
Miller is also a member of the "scientific advisory board" of the George C. Marshall Institute, which is famous for its oil and gas industry funded denials of climate change, and a former trustee of the American Council on Science and Health, which "depends heavily on funding from corporations that have a financial stake in the scientific debates it aims to shape," according to Mother Jones.
Perhaps recognizing that pontificating men aren't the best sources to influence the women who buy food, Miller has recently been sharing bylines with female protégés who have joined his attacks on health advocates and organic farmers.
Examples include a co-authored piece with Kavin Senapathy, co-founder of a group that tries to disrupt speaking events of GMO critics, headlined "Screw the Activists;" and one with Julie Kelly, a cooking instructor whose husband is a lobbyist for the agribusiness giant ADM, describing organic agriculture as an "evil empire."
Recent work by Kelly includes a piece in National Review casting doubt on climate science researchers, and an article in The Hill calling on Congress to defund the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which she accused of "cancer collusion" and "using shoddy science to promote a politically motivated agenda."
As we enter the fifth decade of losing the war on cancer, and as climate instability threatens ecosystems and our food system, it's time to unravel the network of science deniers who claim the mantle of science and expose them for what they are: propagandists who do the dirty work of industry.
Stacy Malkan is co-founder and co-director of US Right to Know. She is author of "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry," a co-founder of the national Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and a former newspaper publisher. This article was originally published in The Ecologist.
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